Embracing Another's Death as Beautiful

Dear Barbara, I live with a friend who has non curative cancer. I want to learn how to embrace this as something beautiful.

We are such a death denying society your question startled me. We tend to only see the ugly through our fear filled eyes so I had to really think about my response.

How to embrace approaching death as something beautiful? Here are my thoughts:

  • The more you learn about end of life, what happens, what it looks like, the less fear you will bring to the experience and with less fear you can get glimpses of beauty. Our movie role models of how people die show us one picture of dying but when we see real death and it doesn’t look as neat and tidy as television or the movies we think something is wrong. In understanding what real dying looks like we can be more of a support person and guide.
  • The body generally does not do beautiful things as death approaches, but with the right eyes watching you can often see the beauty of the personality and spirit shine through.
  • The saying "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" holds true here. Often our grief, our guilt, our regrets, and our fear blocks us from seeing the serenity which itself is a form of beauty.
  • Seeing a life threatening illness as a gift of time. Time to do, time to address, time to say. 
  • Be there. It won't be what you say that really matters but being a supportive, "I’ll-talk-about-anything-or-just-sit-and-be-with-you," kind of person that can make this a beautiful experience for both of you.

I’m not sure we can find actual beauty in dying, our grief gets in the way of seeing actual beauty in the moment, but I think we can find serene understanding. Understanding that this particular life is ending, no matter how much we don’t want it to. Understanding that death is part of life’s cycle (we are born, we experience, and then we die). Understanding that we did the best we could to support our special person during this life challenge.

Something More About...  Embracing Another's Death as Beautiful

To understand the dying process and what to expect, I encourage you to have GONE FROM MY SIGHT: The Dying Experience. It will be your best friend as you care for your friend during the months, weeks, days and hours before death. Make sure that you have the companion book THE ELEVENTH HOUR: A Caring Guideline for the Hours to Minutes Before Death. This booklet tells you what you can do for your friend during the final days, hours, minutes, seconds and just after death. Losing someone so dear will be difficult. Be sure to have MY FRIEND, I CARE: The Grief Experience to support you as you begin your bereavement journey.

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7 comments

Jan Karel

Maybe if the death is peaceful it can be perceived as beautiful, but when a loved one is in terrible pain, there is nothing beautiful about it. My husband was on hospice, but still the level of pain was hideous. There is more mercy shown to our pets than to some of our suffering loved ones.
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BK Books replied:
Oh Jan, I’m so sorry your husband’s dying involved unrelievable pain. You are right, with our animals we can make the choice to end their suffering. Blessings! Barbara

Christopher

My mom passed on 12/1/21 thirty seconds before I arrived to her hospice room. I had spent the past 2.5 months with her everyday as she transitioned.

My biggest fear was that she would pass alone and while the hospice nurse was with her…I have extreme guilt for not being there.

I miss her terribly and carry such guilt. I hope she knows how much I love her and that I did my best to make comfortable in her final months.

Thank you Barbara for all you do!

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BK Books replied:
Hi Christopher, I have attached a link to a blog I wrote about the limited control a person has over the time that they die. https://bkbooks.com/blogs/something-to-think-about/a-window-of-control?pos=1&_sid=37f64c148&ss=r. I’m not sure the link will work with the app I’m using so if it doesn’t go to my website blog and type “limited control” in the search bar. Briefly, a person has limited control over the time that they die. I believe your mom died before you arrived as a gift of protection and love. You might write her a letter and tell her your thoughts and feelings, put it all down on paper, the thoughts and the tears, then burn the letter and scatter the ashes to the wind. Let how well you live your life going forward be the gift of love to your mom. Blessings! Barbara

Jayne Reed

My mother always said she put up with the silly bickering of old church ladies in her prayer group to be sure there were people to pray the Rosary at her funeral. The day she died, the home hospice nurse told me, “Call the priest. I think she’s waiting for him.” I also called my aunts (my mother’s sister and sister-in-law, who came with their oldest daughters) and my sister. My brother and his son were there with their wives, and I had ordered a platter of tea sandwiches.
I guess we got a little noisy, not having seen ech other for a while; the nurse told us we were disturbing Mom’s process.
So the the oldest cousin put on a recording of the rosary, I handed out beads and prayerbooks, and we all began to pray as the nurse closely watched my mother’s breathing. At the last Hail Mary, the nurse called it and noted the time of death. We finished the prayers, called the funeral home and asked if we could keep her with us for an hour or so, which we did.
I was afraid to ask my sister to take a picture, but that is my only regret because she looked so beautiful in death, not a wrinkle on her face at 92.
I am confident that she passed as she wished to, with family surrounding, having received her last sacraments. In fact, the whole experience was beautiful to me; it was like a movie.

Big thanks to the round-the-clock support I got from VNSNY Hospice Services who explained things to me as they happened, keeping me calm. (They are the ones who introduced me to your books!)
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BK Books replied:
Oh Jayne, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful experience as your mother died. It did sound “just like in the movies”. My blessings to you and your family. Barbara

Ralph Dellenbach

I lost my Mother 2 months ago, after her being on Hospice for almost 3 years. The day of her stroke, I was told by her doctors that she would not live thru the day, but she surprised everyone by continuing to recover but she then developed dementia. As I watched her slip thru the progressing stages of her disease I could not help but think each day as her last, which emotionally was very hard on me. Your book “gone from my sight” help
prepare me for the inevitable. I often prepared myself by rereading your book which gave me comfort right up to the end. She is with God now and that gives me strength to go on with life. Thank you for having helped me thru this.
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BK Books replied:
Hi Ralph, knowing that our loved one is doing what they are suppose to be doing as they let go of their physical body brings us comfort during a scary time. Thank you for sharing with me. Blessings! Barbara

Jennifer

Barbara, I had the honor of caring for my father in hospice, the most difficult and most beautiful thing I have ever done. I bought two copies of your booklets months ago – one for myself, one for my Mother and brother – and during the dying process I was so grateful to have these. Everyone in hospice was wonderful but your books really helped with more detail, and every time I dove in during those days, I understood what you wrote at a deeper level, until the final day (and now, beyond). Thank you deeply.
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BK Books replied:
Hi Jennifer, thank you for the kind words about my booklets. I am pleased they were helpful to you during the challenging time of your father’s approaching death. Blessings to you. Barbara

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